Telegraph Key

Telegraph Key

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Description (Brief)
Telegraph keys are electrical on-off switches used to send messages in Morse code. The message travels as a series of electrical pulses through a wire. The operator pushes the key’s lever down briefly to make a short signal, a dot, or holds the lever down for a moment to make a slightly longer signal, a dash. The sequence of dots and dashes represent letters and numbers. Keys can be quite simple devices. This key was hand-made by W. W. Shock, a Union operator at Point Of Rocks, MD, in 1864. Confederate troops had destroyed the regular key so Shock made this "perfectly practicable and serviceable" replacement.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
date made
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
brass (overall material)
overall including stand: 2 3/4 in x 3 in x 6 1/2 in; 6.985 cm x 7.62 cm x 16.51 cm
key only: 2 in x 2 1/2 in x 6 in; 5.08 cm x 6.35 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from Charles Selden
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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